When Cars Become Torpedoes - How Distractions Wreak Havoc

Earlier this month, a truck driver from Independence, WI was traveling 63 mph when he slammed his vehicle into the back of a car stopped at an intersection. The driver and sole occupant of the car, a 54-year-old father of 3, died at the scene.

Instead of paying attention to the road, the truck driver spent the 8 seconds prior the accident texting his girlfriend and researching a house on the Zillow app. At a rate of 63 mph, he managed to cover the length of two football fields before slamming into the car. He was charged with criminal vehicular homicide and faces 4 years in prison.

Sadly, he isn’t the first person to unintentionally kill another because of texting while driving, and he won’t be the last. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, nearly one-third of U.S. drivers ages 18 - 64 admitted to reading or sending texts or emails while driving.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Clearly, we are distracted by our phones, but our phones are not the only culprit of distractions while in the car. Distracted driving occurs when a driver’s attention is diverted away from driving by a secondary task that requires focusing on an object, event, or person not related to driving. Every time a driver adjusts the air conditioning, tunes the radio, tends to a young child, eats, reads a map, applies make-up, etc., they are engaging in a distracting task or activity. Each year, these behaviors cause more than 420,000 injuries and 3,100 deaths in the U.S.

Hands-free devices don’t necessarily make using a wireless phone safer when driving, and they can’t be used as a defense in a lawsuit. Known as a “cognitive distraction,” simply talking on the phone still takes a driver’s mind off the task of driving.

Even when a driver appears to be “looking,” they may not be “seeing.” As a driver focuses his or her attention on something other than driving, they begin to suffer from “inattentional blindness,” meaning they may fail to notice something fully visible because their attention is focused on a task other than driving. For example, a driver conversing on a cell phone may fail to see many of the visual cues around them.

Distracted Driving Statistics

According to The Federal Communications Commission, distracted drivers cause more than 8 fatalities and 1,161 injuries each day in the U.S. Some additional statistics include:

  • The NHTSA reported that in 2015, 3,477 people were killed and an estimated 391,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
  • At any given moment in the U.S., about 660,000 drivers are using wireless phones or other electronic devices while driving.
  • In 2015, the National Occupant Protection Use Survey reported that handheld cell phone use continued to be highest among 16-24 year-old drivers.

Signs a Driver Is Distracted

Although we can do little to prevent others from making negligent decisions while driving, there are a number of warning signs that may indicate a driver is not paying attention to the road. If you are involved in an accident and remember the other driver engaging in any of these actions prior to your accident, let police officers on the scene know:

  • Erratic swerving
  • Sudden stops
  • Swerving across lanes
  • Constant signaling
  • Driving without headlights on at night

Our Wisconsin Car Accident Lawyers Can Help You

Distracted drivers pose a serious threat to those around them. Some will only learn from their mistakes if they are held financially accountable for the damage they cause to others. If you believe the other driver's lack of focus and attention was the cause of your accident, we can help you prove it. Our legal team relies on evidence such as police reports, witness statements, and in some cases, cell phone records.

Was the driver replying to a text or on the phone right before the accident? Cell phone records can include data that shows the activity of the driver at the time of the accident and can provide a clearer picture of liability. However, cell phone companies will only release cell phone records after a court subpoena. We can help you with these and other legal details should your case end up in trial.

If you have sustained serious injuries due to a distracted driver, contact our Wisconsin car accident attorneys, based in Wisconsin. We earnestly want to keep our roads safe, and your case is a step in the right direction. If your accident involved an uninsured motorist, we can also help you explore your sources of compensation.

Contact Casey Law Offices, S.C. to discuss your distracted driving case: (414) 272-5564.

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